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Celebrities With an Extreme Fear of Germs
Mysophobia, the irrational fear of germs, can affect anyone from any gender, any race, and any social standing. In fact, more than a few celebrities are reported to suffer from it.
Some, like Howie Mandel, aren't ashamed to let society know of their irrational fear of germs. He has my utmost respect for being honest about it. Others, best left unnamed, show all the signs, but are probably too embarrassed to admit it.
And who can blame them? After all the ridicule that Michael Jackson had to endure for being mysophobic, I'd have second thoughts too.
Symptoms of Mysophobia
Mysophobia means having an uncontrollable fear of dirt, germs and contamination. When a mysophobe is exposed to germs or dirt, they may experience breathlessness, nausea, heart palpitations, or a fear of loss of control. They can also feel ill and start shaking if they fear that they are being contaminated. In extreme cases, a mysophobe will get physically sick in reaction to possible contamination.
Here are a few symptoms of mysophobia:
- Excessive washing, for example, repeated hand washing (an action which paradoxically makes them more prone to infection)
- Avoiding activities that they deem unclean, such as using public bathrooms or shaking hands
- Declaring the desire not to share any personal items, including utensils and toothbrushes as well as food and drinks
- Avoiding social situations which include a close group of people or animals
Mysophobia can be caused by many things. If a person is raised by a mysophobic parent, they have a higher chance of developing it themselves. Mysophobia can also be brought on by a traumatic event. There have even been cases in which mysophobia was caused by watching a scene on TV.
Is It Mysophobia or OCD?
A lot of people think mysophobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder are the same things. But they aren't. While a symptom of both disorders is repeated hand washing, it's the thought process behind it that separates mysophobia from OCD.
A mysophobe washes their hands repeatedly to get rid of germs and contaminants. Someone with OCD washes their hands repeatedly because they feel they have to.
Howie Mandel admits to suffering from both OCD and mysophobia. He refuses to shake hands unless he's wearing latex gloves. He's been known to literally run from germs. In 2007 when NFL running back Marshall Faulk grabbed Howie's hand and tried to shake it, Howie ran off stage screaming and washed his hands several times. This happened twice more while he was a judge on America's Got Talent. Once when a contestant was trying to sneeze too close to him and again when another contestant dropped a piece of used dental floss too close to Howie.
Howie has also admitted to being so scared of public restrooms, that the only bathroom he can use is his own. And in 2006 he told Howard Stern that he shaves his head because it makes him feel cleaner.
Michael Jackson suffered from many fears, including the fear of dogs, the fear of flying, the fear of getting fat, the fear of crowds, and an extreme fear of germs.
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I'm sure everyone can remember the surgical masks and gloves he wore while in public in order to protect himself from becoming contaminated. He even went so far as to have his children wear surgical masks when they were in public.
I always felt sorry for Jackson. He had to endure an unbelievable amount of taunting, rumors and ridicule just because he suffered from mysophobia.
Howard Hughes had an extreme case of mysophobia which some say ultimately caused his death. Although it's not a proven fact, some speculate that he learned his fear of germs from his mother.
Hughes grew up and lived an exciting and eventful life, but then as he got older, he became more and more fearful of germs. He would lock himself in his 'germ-free' hotel room for months at a time. He tried to protect himself from germs by using tissues to pick up objects. He even stuffed all the cracks in his windows with tissues to keep the germs out. After a series of plane crashes, he became addicted to drugs and became a total recluse. At the time of his death, no one had seen him in so long they had to use fingerprints to identify him.
In 1997, Donald Trump outlined his fear of shaking hands in his book Trump: The Art of the Comeback. As it turns out, Trump is actually terrified of germs. Time Magazine reported that Trump doesn't shake hands because he's afraid of germs. OCD Today reports that he even refuses to touch the ground floor button on an elevator. He's also been quoted as saying:
"I'm going to do everything in my power not to shake hands with teachers. They have 17,000 germs per square inch on their desk. That's ten times the germ rate of those in other professions. It's absolutely swarming with germs."
There has been much speculation about whether Cameron Diaz suffers from mysophobia. She repeatedly washes her hands throughout the day and uses her elbows instead of her hands to open doors. She's also admitted to scrubbing her door handles hard enough to fade the paint. She has been quoted as saying:
"I'm not into other people's fluids unless I know them really well."
In 1997, Time Magazine quoted Diaz as saying she was germophobic. In a 2009 interview with Bill Maher, Diaz denied the statement, saying a comment she made about public bathrooms was blown out of proportion.
© 2010 Othercatt
Did you learn anything new from reading this article?
J on July 06, 2020:
Emma, the teacher, from Glee
T on January 12, 2020:
Zach on December 08, 2019:
and Frank Sinatra are also Gremaphobes
Jane deWynter on November 06, 2019:
Get a grip!!!
Gregg on July 01, 2019:
Check this web site out the best hand sanitizer available .allapure this product is amazing it kills Viruses, bio-films, spores and kills pathogens though physical, chemical and DNA disruption for up to 4 hours.
Claire on October 30, 2018:
Martin Hall on October 23, 2018:
Chris on July 15, 2018:
Park Ji Yoo on July 08, 2018:
NCT Lee Tae Yong
Bono stern on April 20, 2018:
katelyn mazurek on September 19, 2017:
Duckduckgoose on March 25, 2017:
Glad that I share the disease with my peeps, don't feel all alone! I like German hospital clean.
Lillian on October 04, 2016:
Maybe a less well-known celebrity would be Sal Vulcano from Impractical Jokers; he regularly expresses extreme discomfort about germs in public and becomes incredibly anxious whenever any of his punishments involve germs. If I had to guess, he probably has OCD that manifests in other forms as well.
mel jackson on April 05, 2015:
felix from the odd couple
Alex Graham on March 05, 2014:
Lots of great information! Thank you for sharing!
arkose on October 13, 2013:
Emma Pillsbury, the guidance counselor from Glee, has severe mysophobia, to the point where she is a 32-year-old virgin and has avoided relationships all her life (until she meets Will the glee club director) because she is afraid of the germs involved with being close to someone. At one point, she spends an hour cleaning a pencil sharpener before using it. She struggles a lot with her mysophobia throughout the show, but in recent seasons it hasn't been as extreme, since she got married to Will who has been helping her through difficult things. Surprisingly, Glee has been somewhat realistic about its portrayal of this, unlike some of its other portrayals... Good lens, it was very interesting to read.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on July 03, 2013:
I popped in to see if Howie Mandel was in here. Hopefully now a days that the social stigma is not so prominent on this obsessive compulsive disorder people who suffer from it will not get to the point that Howard Hughes reached in his illness.
Rose Jones on April 16, 2013:
What a sensitive lens. We all have our deals, eh? No matter how rich and famous we get. We all just have to have compassion with each other. I love it that you featured Monk - I adore that show, and I am definitely going to check out Matchstick Men.
whatwouldnietzschedo on April 15, 2013:
I would feel bad actually classifying myself as having mysophobia, it would be a self diagnosis to begin with, and it's rather mild compared to most of the stories I've read. About a year and a half ago I had a tumor removed, it was benign but I left the office with a staph infection, which made my already nervous condition peak. Other than bleaching everything now, all the time, I won't touch my face if I don't wash my hands first, and I always sanitize after touching public doors.
I hate, absolutely hate public bathrooms for two reasons:
1. Most of them don't have lids on the toilets or in the case of men's rooms... urinals.
2. I can't trust that people put the lid down anyway. Far... far too many people look puzzled when the topic comes up. Seriously, it never occurred to you that having a lid might, just might, be for health reasons?
Don't get me started on how many people leave toothbrushes out in the open within feet of a toilet.
anonymous on August 08, 2012:
Hey, I work in health care and it's difficult not to become overly sensitive about germs! Plus, in today's world, we are constantly bombarded with message about sanitizing our hands, our laundry, our kitchens, bathrooms, etc, etc, etc. If everyone would just wash their hands and cover coughs and sneezes, we could probably find a happy medium. Until then, I will wash and moisturize often!
anonymous on June 03, 2012:
Kari Byron from Mythbusters admits to having Mysophobia and you can actually see in some episodes that shes gets really nervous around situations involving germs
RuralFloridaLiving on May 06, 2012:
I did! And it was enjoyable and interesting to read
anonymous on November 29, 2011:
Brent Spiner is a bit mysophobic. He once told me while he wiped his hands after shaking mine.
Also, for TV, Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is so mysophobic, he refuses to have sex.
And Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon Cooper is slightly afraid of germs. He once admitted his hands were very red because he was constantly washing them in really hot water.
anonymous on August 13, 2011:
...Oh my gosh. There are actually people who understand?! Man...you've got no idea how much better this makes me feel. I've been like this since I was a baby!
cinstress on April 15, 2011:
Monk is so funny. Very neat lens!
MarianaFargasch on March 03, 2011:
I love Howie! And I consider myself one of those! Just one of the things I have! hehe
amkatee on December 25, 2010:
Very good information, well written, and a nice touch adding celebrities! I love me some Howie!
Paula Morgan from Sydney Australia on December 20, 2010:
One of my mothers friends suffered from this - it was so debilitating for her. Great to let people know about it.
norma-holt on December 19, 2010:
Yes, I definitely learned a lot. I have a reasonable fear of germs and a normal way of dealing with them. Great lens on an important topic.
budwalker lm on December 19, 2010:
wow ! i never thought of this. at least now i know about this kind of phobia :D